Jaws’ initial release had people terrified to even be in the tub. Since then, the movie industry has figured out that the “man-killing shark” narrative is a major moneymaking idea. Unfortunately, this market for thrilling, man-versus-shark movies has also fueled the real-world stigma that sharks are evil man-eaters, ultimately contributing to the slaughter of hundreds of millions of sharks every year. While movie franchises like Sharknado satirize the idea of the killer shark, recent movies like The Shallows and 47 Meters Down still stick to the same basic formula of the aquatic predator thirsty for human flesh. Though this may make for an entertaining movie-going experience, the real-life consequences have been nothing short of a continuous, oceanic slaughter.
Sharks are responsible for maintaining the balance of the ocean’s ecosystem, keeping certain species of fish from overpopulating and destroying coral and other essential fish markets such as Tuna. The 1975 release of Jaws led to shocking global participation in shark-killing contests, and ecosystems felt the immediate effects. Research from acclaimed biologist Dr. Julia Baum suggests that, in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean between 1986 and 2000, there were massive declines in shark populations. Eighty-nine percent of hammerhead sharks, 79 percent of great white sharks and 65 percent of tiger sharks had vanished seemingly into thin air. Peter Benchley, author of the adapted, best-selling novel, has since stated that he never would have written Jaws if he had known what it would mean for the species.
Over 40 years later, the Columbia Pictures release of The Shallows—slated by producers of the film to be the “Jaws for this generation”—still depicted the clichéd, highly falsified portrayal of the killer shark out for revenge. The Shallows’ release sparked outcry from major national and international researchers, conservationists and university professors of the marine science research community, who wrote an open letter addressing the motion picture organization, asking them to donate two percent of the company’s profits from The Shallows to help create a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation fund to aid in continued shark research and preservation.
Despite the open letter and widespread attempts to bring awareness to the international decline of sharks, the overused, outdated storyline of the vengeful shark is still making its way into the hands of movie studio executives. The Meg, an action/horror flick directed by Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure), based on the novel Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, stars Ruby Rose, Jason Statham and Rainn Wilson and is one of the more anticipated motion picture releases of 2018. The movie tells the tale of Jonas Taylor, who attempts to save a group of individuals trapped in a submarine from a massive, man-eating shark—an all-too-familiar plotline. With an estimated budget of $150 million, The Meg is another example of how movie studios continue to disregard the detrimental effects their films inflict on sharks while profiting off people’s fear of the species.
Fear leads people to commit unnecessary violence against that which is feared. The movie industry must cease portraying sharks as murderous, human-hunting beasts of the ocean before fear leads people to hunt the remaining endangered shark population to extinction.
Jaw-Dropping Shark Stats
Sharks have been unfairly portrayed in the media for decades, and something smells fishy. Let’s set the record straight.
- On average, shark attacks occur only 20 times a year in the U.S.
- For every human killed by a shark, humans kill approximately two million sharks.
- Over 11,000 sharks are killed per hour.
- The chances of being killed by a shark are 1 in 11.5 million.
- The chances of being killed by lightning are 94 in 1 million.
- The chances of being injured by a toilet are 96.4 in 100,000.
- The chances of being hit by a comet or asteroid are 1 in 75,000.